A SLICE OF LIFE IN THE CLC
SNAPSHOTS OF CONGREGATIONS FROM AROUND THE CHURCH OF THE LUTHERAN CONFESSION
When you think about Washington State, what is the first city that comes to mind? It’s Seattle, isn’t it? Seattle is one of the top cities in America. It is famous for businesses like Boeing, Starbucks, Microsoft and Amazon. It is probably the city most identified with the Pacific Northwest.
Tacoma is Seattle’s next-door neighbor, though in this area of urban sprawl, it can be hard to know exactly where one city ends and the next one begins. Located thirty-two miles south of Seattle, on Puget Sound, Tacoma is the third-largest city in Washington State, behind only Seattle and Spokane. Thirty miles farther to the south lies Olympia, the state capital.
Western Washington is known for its mild climate. Although we get a lot of drizzle, especially in the winter, it very seldom snows here. Things stay green nearly year round. The Pacific Ocean is a short distance to the west, and to the east is picturesque Mount Rainier. You can often see “The Mountain” as you go about your business around town.
Ascension Lutheran Church began in the late 1980’s as a preaching station of Redemption Lutheran Church of Lynnwood (a northern suburb of Seattle). For many years, Pastor Bertram Naumann faithfully and regularly brought the Word of God to CLC members in the Tacoma area, meeting in members’ homes and in various public venues.
The congregation was incorporated in 1992, and was served for two years by Pastor Wayne Eichstadt, the synod’s missionary-at-large at the time. In 1995 Ascension called Rev. Paul Naumann as their first permanent pastor. A parsonage was rented in the village of DuPont, Washington, just south of Tacoma. Sunday services were held in the DuPont city hall.
In 1998, after a lengthy search and with the help and advice of the CLC Board of Missions, the congregation purchased a four-acre property in unincorporated Pierce County between Tacoma and Puyallup. A spacious house, already on the property, was designated the church’s parsonage, and the whole property was dedicated to the Lord’s service on August 15, 1998. Worship continued in temporary quarters.
In 2003 the Lord further blessed Ascension by providing them the means to build a church of their own. The general contractor for the project was Jack Mayhew, a member of Grace Lutheran Church in Valentine, Nebraska. Volunteers—including many from Redemption—provided labor during the construction. Redemption Pastor John Hein was a frequent worker, and member Dot Abbott crafted the beautiful stained-glass windows that adorn the sanctuary. The finished chapel measured 1,400 square feet and has a posted capacity of sixty-five, though the congregation has occasionally hosted larger crowds for special services. The sanctuary doubles as a fellowship hall, facilitated by having movable chairs rather than permanent pews.
With an uptick in membership came a need for more parking space. In 2010 the congregation undertook an expansion of the parking lot, as well as extensive upgrades to the landscaping and grounds.
Another change came in 2016 when, after serving the congregation for twenty-one years, Pastor Naumann accepted a call to teach at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Pastor Benjamin Libby, a recent seminary graduate, replaced him as Ascension’s new pastor.
Ascension’s location is a strength. The church is situated on a major north-south arterial only three minutes from Interstate 5. All branches of the armed forces have bases in the area, the most important being Joint Base Lewis McChord, in DuPont. Ascension continues to enjoy the fellowship of a steady stream of CLC service-members stationed in the area.
Additionally, the Tacoma area has one of the highest immigration rates in the country; more people are coming to this area than ever before. Couple this with western Washington’s status as one of the least-churched regions of the U.S., and you have a mission field with plenty of potential! Here there is never a shortage of prospects with whom to share the message of Christ crucified.
We Christians here in the Pacific Northwest “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” just like any other believer anywhere. There are plenty of challenges to face and adversities to overcome. But the Good Shepherd will continue to watch over and guide us. Here at Ascension, the mountains are an ever-present backdrop to our daily lives. They serve as a constant reminder of our Lord’s protection: “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2 ESV) May the Lord, Who made the heavens and the earth, continue to keep us at Ascension in His grace, as also all believers everywhere!
Benjamin Libby is pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Tacoma, Washington.